Mobile Homes Going Condo

Goleta City Officials and Residents Fight to Bitter End

Goleta mobile home residents were cursing as they departed the meeting room on Tuesday night, angry that the City Council was forced to allow the Rancho Mobile Home Park to be subdivided and individual lots put up for sale.

“Eat shit greedy pig,” one man shouted as he walked out, even before the final vote was taken. “See you in hell!”

Presumably his remarks were directed at Daniel Guggenheim, who was not in attendance, but was very much discussed in the course of a long, emotional hearing. Guggenheim owns the 150-space mobile home park and is the force behind the so-called condominium conversion proposal. His projected profit in the scheme is an estimated $37 million.

No condos will actually be built; the term refers to dividing up the 18-acre property into smaller pieces, with the mobile home tenants offered the opportunity to purchase the land underneath their units. Those who cannot afford to buy will be able to continue renting. Indeed, the City of Goleta took great pains to hammer out a deal with Guggenheim that offered a series of concessions to residents.

For instance, tenants would be able to buy a lot at 15 percent discount of the sales price (to be determined by an independent appraiser), and financing would be available from Guggenheim and possibly the city. In the short term, the city’s deal would give the “non-purchasing” residents more rent control benefits than state law provides in the cases of condo conversion.

But in the long run, the residents are losing real and meaningful rent control, as established by the county’s 1979 ordinance. Additionally, the condo conversion reduces the value of the mobile homes themselves – people who bought the unit based on an affordable, available space will lose equity because of the change.

At first, audience anger was directed at the City Council. Signs read “Keep Your Promise” and “Don’t Sell Us Out,” but as the night wore on people realized the city had been beaten to a pulp by no less than five lawsuits filed by Guggenheim.

“There’s not any further the city can go. It’s already cost the city a small fortune,” said Councilmember Michael Bennett. “My heart goes out to you,” he said to the tenants of Rancho Mobile Homes, and to those from other parks worried the same condo scheme would be unleashed on them. “And I certainly have no love for Mr. Guggenheim.”

Twelve acres of the mobile home park is within the coastal zone, so the plan will go before the California Coastal Commission, which must address the loss of affordable housing as required by the Coastal Act.


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